LAKE CHARLES — Usman Garuba left the 2022 Summer League tournament in Las Vegas dejected.
Garuba was inactive due to an ankle injury he sustained two days before the Houston Rockets began summer league play. His absence was first viewed as a missed opportunity.
He missed out on the chance to prove his worth as a backup big man to Alperen Sengun ahead of the 2022-23 campaign. But most importantly, Garuba's wounded ankle prevented him from creating separation between himself and his counterparts lobbying for a roster spot during training camp.
Two months later, Garuba may have preserved his role following an impressive outing during the 2022 EuroBasket tournament.
"I've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time," Garuba said. "I was disappointed when I was injured during summer league. But I played with the national team and played great. And now, I am ready for the season."
Garuba helped Spain win a gold medal during the Berlin-based championship finale on Sept. 18.
He averaged 4.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists during the European summer tournament. Garuba's performance should give him the upper hand during his training camp competition between Boban Marjanovic and Bruno Fernando.
The lack of durability made Garuba's rookie campaign a disappointing experience. He missed 25 games due to a wrist injury. Following surgery and appearing in 24 games, Garuba averaged 10.0 minutes during the 2021-22 season.
Prior to the start of training camp, Garuba said he has worked on everything this offseason — from his 3-point shooting to defense. But his talents as a late first-round pick in 2021 (No. 23 overall) have never been doubted.
During the Rockets' 122-117 defeat to the Sacramento Kings, Garuba pulled down a career-best 14 rebounds and recorded a pair of blocks.
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